Friday, March 29, 2013

Drinking: Coffee Kombucha

If you recall, I started brewing some coffee kombucha a few weeks ago. I tried it today and will definitely be brewing some more. Coffee kombucha has a strong coffee smell but a changed, lessened coffee flavor. It's really hard to explain. Coffee Kombucha seems a little like a sweet/sour candy. It's sweet and regular coffee like while at the same time being tart and a little fermented.

I drank my coffee kombucha with ice and soymilk - which curdled in a weird way.

Have you tried Coffee Kombucha? 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

From Scratching: Spent Grain Pasta

I got the idea for spent grain pasta here, but I used my veganized pasta recipe (2 cups semolina flour and 1/2 cup hot water) but replaced 1/2 a cup of the semolina flour with an 1/2 a cup of spent grain flour. The pasta could not be rolled as thing as it usually can due to the coarse grind of the spent grain flour.  

This pasta with no sauce leaves a strong, slightly bitter aftertaste but improves drastically when served with some tomato sauce. I think the taste of this pasta will depend a lot on the grains used in the brew. 

Overall this was a fun experiment, but I will keep looking for that perfect recipe to use up the majority of my spent grain flour. 

Has anyone else made spent grain pasta?    

Monday, March 25, 2013

Drinking: Home-brewing Tip

While my home-brew dreams have remained on my culinary to do list thus far, I have managed to make several batches of Kombucha. We bought this Chalk Ink market from a local art supply store after asking them for recommendations regarding labelling glass bottles. This marker works amazing. It is easy to use and easy to remove but does not wash off with condensation. I use it to keep track of the contents and the date of various fermentation projects. 

We will have to think of something else to label the final beer project as this chalk marker rubs off easily with touch.

How do you label home-brew projects?   

Friday, March 22, 2013

Eating the Web: Beer

1.Vinegar is a complex but simple process and can be made from many things, including beer/mead.
2. One person can make a difference - especially in craft beer.   
3. Beer can be made with all kinds of ingredients - including beans
4. This ecofriendly brewery uses spent grains as fuel. I like it but I still want to be able to steal spent grains from brewiers for my own purposes!
5. Still unsure on how to tip? Here's some ideas - although I don't agree with tipping even if you get bad service. 

Follow me @Sarah999 for more great food and beer links!
Also, check out for more great beer articles!   

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

From Scratching: Spent Grain Flour

Through twitter stalking Junction Craft Beer I discovered when they had brewed and headed down there to ask for some spent grains. I then dehydrated and ground those spent grains into a flour.

Now what to do with this flour?

Original inspiration here  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Brewing: Coffee Kombucha

I've been brewing Kombucha for the last few months. There are a lot of supposed health benefits associated with Kombucha. I am not sure if I believe such claims but I would support removing cola and soft drinks in flavor of a home-brewed, few ingredient drink such as Kombucha. I do not drink cola or soft drinks so adding Kombucha to my diet is actually an increase in non-water liquids. I like the brewing process and I enjoy finding uses for the extra scobies created. 

I read about using an extra scoby to ferment some brewed coffee. I left an inch or so of brewed kombucha in the bottom of this container and poured in room temperature coffee and an extra scoby. Apparently, the acidity of the coffee prevents a baby scoby from forming and kills the mother.

Have you brewed anything besides tea Kombucha with your scoby?
What do you do with your extra scobies?   

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review: Harvest Noon's ChocoSol Workshop

Over reading week, Harvest Noon held a series of workshops in conjunction with ChocoSol. I attended the second event entitled, ChocoSol Workshop Series II: Cacao, Coffee, and Commerce. The ChocoSol employee and presenter was very knowledgable about cacao and coffee as he was a biology student. It was fun to see him geek out about some of the specifics of the plants. For example, he told us that the cacao pods grow directly on the main trunk of the tree, a feature known as cauliflory.

He was an articulate and knowledgeable speaker but it was difficult to pay close attention to his speech as he was constantly passing out samples and working on preparing a crude cocao drinking chocolate. 

Exhibit A: First the cocoa beans were roasted. 

Exhibit B: Once roasted it is easy to separate the the bean from the chaff (pictured in the two bowls in the foreground). The beans are then ground in a warm mortar and pestle. 

Exhibit C: The ground cacao is then mixed with hot water in a jug and agitated with the wooden 'whisk' seen below.
Exhibit D: The finished product and some of ChocoSol's products.
The finished product was wonderful and the process is simple so I've added 'Make drinking chocolate from Cacao beans' to my culinary to-do list! 
Things I learnt (but probably should have known) about cacao:
- There are many varieties of cacao
- There are only three commercially available varieties of Cacao.
- Cacao nibs are roasted and crushed cacao beans. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Vegan Secret Supper Cookbook

I have wanted to create my own underground kitchen for years now. We have had long, involved conversations about the legal ramifications of such an activity as well as conversations relating to logistics and culinary talent. And in the end? We went out for supper.

Undertaking a project of the scale of an underground supper club, especially on a weekly basis is truly daunting. Doing it well? With innovative and interesting recipes? It seems all but impossible. But that's what Merida Anderson did. Well she did all that AND she wrote a cookbook about it. 

Vegan Secret Supper is a beautiful book. The layout and full colour photos show plated meals that one would expect to see in fine dining restaurants. The vegan cookbook market has exploded in recent years but there are very few cookbooks that explore the fine dining style of cooking. While technically fine dining the recipes in the cookbook seem very approachable. This is because the recipes are separated by component but remain on the same page spread for ease of use. Additionally, plating instructions are given clearly and concisely. Anderson has a love of whole foods evident by the fact that she largely skips ingredients like vegan butter in favour of a homemade substitution. Vegans have come to rely too heavily on commercially made components. 

While untrained as a chef, Merida Anderson is clearly a highly creative individual as Vegan Secret Supper is full of innovative and interesting recipes. I am interested in the Radicchio Marmalade (99), the Smoke Infused Olive Oil (206), the Coconut Melting Cheese (194) and the Hazelnut Rye Crisps (123). The first thing I plan on cooking is the Butternut Squash & Almond Gnocchi sauteed with Sage Garlic Butter. (87)

And thus brings me to my criticisms of this cookbook. Recipe titles are all as long as the one for the Gnocchi. The first time I flipped through this cookbook my eyes glossed over at the series of cumbersome restaurant style recipe names and I almost missed out on a lot of interesting recipes.

I was also expecting a lot more of Anderson's character to shine through. I expected a cookbook emerging from an underground supper club to be full of illicit tales and intersting stories. I have never seen shorter headnotes than those that appear in this book. The headnote for the warm beet salad (78) appears as follows 

"I still can't believe I hated beets as a kid. Now I can practically eat beets at every meal. Roasting beets brings out the best of their flavor, keeping all the nutrients inside." 

And that's it - there is no passion conveyed in that headnote! No interesting story. Nothing that compels me to make the dish. And this headnote is one of the longest ones in the cookbook!

This cookbook left me wanted more. I want to know what it's like to run an underground kitchen. I want action shots and battlefield stories - but instead we are left with 'I used to hate beets. Now I love them'.

I am left to dream about illicit underground adventures while cook and eat my own vegan secret supper.               

Vegan Secret Supper available in April 2013 through Arsenal Pulp Press.

The Small Print: I received this cookbook as review product. I did not promise a positive review nor receive any additional compensation for this review.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: Trade School Toronto

(Photo courtesy of Rachel Tredon via Trade School Toronto's Facebook Group)

Trade School Toronto is a barter (or trade) system of exchanging knowledge. It is volunteer run and organized. This 'term' was held at Hart House on the U of T campus. I taught 35 people in five food related classes and I participated as a student in four other classes!

As a teacher I had the opportunity to list trade items that I would like to receive and so I traded my knowledge about sourdough bread, fermentation, and cookies for chocolate bars, tea, baked goods, vegan recipes, cafe recommendations, and recipe testers. As a student, I participated in classes after having brought chocolate bars, picture frames, sticky notes, and glue sticks to class.

Teaching or public speaking in general can be a scary thing. I am amazed at how quickly my public speaking skills have developed since I began speaking at conferences. It becomes easier with time but also depends on the subject matter. I have a fair bit of knowledge in both sourdough and fermentation so felt quiet comfortable answering questions in those areas. I am also aware of the edge of my knowledge and have become comfortable answering questions with an 'I don't know but I think...' type of answer. Teaching at Trade School Toronto is a low stress way to develop and hone public speaking skills.   

Did you miss Trade School Toronto? Interested in my class notes? Email wingedsnail99 [at] hotmail [dot] ca - and I will send you the notes!  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Addicted to Cookbooks: PPK collection

As a long term vegetarian I frequently get asked for recommendations for good vegan and vegetarian cookbooks. I usually steer potential cookbook buyers in the direction of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero of Post Punk Kitchen Fame.
Here are some short reviews of the cookbooks pictured above.
Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (co-authored) - The tiny square trilogy of vegan dessert cookbooks are amazing as well as being cute. Recipe include drop cookies, wholesome cookies, bar cookies, fancy cookies and rolled cookies. This is THE book for vegan cookie monsters. Favourite Recipe: Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Vegan Pie in the Sky (co-authored) - This book came out while both authors were working on independent projects and it shows in the quality and breadth of recipes included. Most of these recipes are actually cobblers and not pies. Additionally, most are fruit pies which are easy for the home cook to veganize from traditional recipes. I purchased this book to complete the trilogy!  Favourite Recipe: Pucker Up Raspberry Pie
Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World (co-authored)​ - This is the first in the dessert trilogy and by far the best. Published in the height of cupcake mania it includes a vast array of cupcake and frosting recipes. It may seem passe now but this cookbook really revolutionized vegan desserts. Favourite Recipe: Mucho Margarita Cupcakes 
Vegan Brunch (Isa Chandra Moskowitz) - I pre-ordered this cookbook (first time I have ever done that) and was very disappointed in the quality and creativity of the recipes included in this cookbook. The recipes appeared poorly tested and I experienced many disappointments in the kitchen. So many in fact that I have traded this book for another! Favourite Recipe: Buckwheat Waffles 
Vegan with A Vengeance (Isa Chandra Moskowitz) - This is a well used cookbook and was the first of Isa's cookbooks. It is a funny basic cookbook that covers a wide variety of different food styles from Jerk Seitan to Green Thai Curry. Favourite Recipe: Chocolate Pudding
Veganomicon (co-authored) - The subtitle of this tome is 'The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook'. The depth and breadth of the recipes in this cookbook make it a modern classic. Additionally, the index in this book is great which makes it very easy to look up a recipe. If you are going to buy just one cookbook, this is the one! Favourite Recipe: Chile Cornmeal-Cursted Tofu Po'Boy
Viva Vegan! (Terry Hope Romero)​ - Terry's first solo cookbook is a Latin Dream with recipes tamales, tortillas, and churros. I have really enjoyed cooking new-to-me recipes such as tamales (which have become a comfort food staple!) Favourite Recipe: Pickled Red Onions
Vegan Eats World (Terry Hope Romero)​ - A recent publication Vegan Eats World is full of interesting classic international recipes that allows vegans to travel the world through the kitchen. I have not made that many dishes from this book but those I have have been interesting with complex flavours. One thing I do not understand is her decisions regarding the naming of dishes. She refers to the French flatbread Socca as 'chickpea crepes' while both naan and roti are called as such. It seems arbitrary.  Favourite Recipe: Potato Pierogi with Fried Onions
Isa has another cookbook - Appetite for Reduction - which after my disappointment with Vegan Brunch I have not purchased. (She also has a soon-to-be-released Isa Does It.) When I leafed through Appetite it seemed similar in style and coverage to Veganomicon and also included ideas for salads and bowls that I can create without a recipe. I enjoy Terry's solo books of international recipes as they challenge the palate and the mind.
While the creativity of these authors (especially Isa) has waned in recent years perhaps due to publishing deadlines, as a duo they can still rock the vegan cookbook world! Cookbooks like Veganomicon and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World have encouraged vegans with tasty, approachable, and reliable recipes for years. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: 5th Annual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off

On 2 February 2013, I joined 45 other bakers in the 5thAnnual Totally Fabulous Vegan Bake-Off.
As an amateur baker, I had to prepare 100 bite sized portions of my entry – a delicate orange chocolate biscotti which was included in the category of 'Charming Vegan Cookies'. Preparing that many samples was an interesting but comforting challenge for me. It took me the better part of a day and much to my chagrin I had to prepare an additional batch of candied orange peels late in the day.
The event was sold-out and over 5000 samples were consumed within hours of the doors opening. The Toronto Vegetarian Association did a wonderful job coordinating and preparing the event. Information was seamlessly passed to bakers and the event went off without a hitch.
The two major problems I had with the event were the unprofessional nature of the announcers (I don't care that your roommate entered, or your boyfriend, or your brother – keep it to yourself!) and the odd judging organization. Entries were only tasted by judges if they won first place in their category. I believe that fair judging requires the judges to sample every entry in each category as many individuals brought with them a mired of friends and groupies with which to pad the votes.
Regardless of the odd judging hierarchy, when I returned home I immediately began to dream about the possible entries for next year's bake-off. I entered with a biscotti because I believe it tastes pretty darn good but also because it was quick to bake and easy to transport. However, I do not think it showed that well in an atmosphere were there were no hot drinks into which to dip the biscotti. I think I will plunge a little deeper into my baking repertoire for next year – perhaps with a flood iced cookie which is 3-D in nature. 
This was my first cooking competition of any kind. Entering a food competition has been on my to-do list for many years and I am glad that I have finally accomplished it! I really approached this competition with a 'fun run' mentality. It was something new, something different that I am glad I accomplished. I also liked the challenge of making 100 samples.
Advice for newbies to the Bake-off?
  1. Plan ahead! I should not have had to make additional candied orange peels the day before the event as it would have been simply a matter of counting how many batches I would need to hit the 100 mark.
  2. Take the 'bite sized' seriously. My biscotti were gratuitously large!
  3. If making 100 treats AND a beautiful display worries you – go simple and classic for the display. This year's runner-up in the display simply placed two treats and a piece of fruit on a square white plate.
  4. Have fun! Remember it's a 'fun run'!
Unfortunately my entry did not pull a win – but I plan on blaming that on the lack of coffee – for what is a biscotti without a hot substance into which to dip it?
Keep an eye out for this awesome event next year! It's a too tasty to miss!